Arsenal Club Focus – Wenger faces selection headache ahead of United test

Arsenal showed some of their old skills as they dispatched Udinese in very effective style, but now the thoughts of Arsene Wenger and his team will have turned to Old Trafford and Sunday’s match against the champions, Manchester United. Always a fixture to attract much media focus, this game will be of particular interest to many as they look to see just what the gap between United and the Gunners now is, with most expecting it to have significantly widened over the summer.

Before that, however, it is worth mentioning one of the positives from Arsenal’s Champions League game, Wojciech Szczesny. The young Pole has been one of Arsenal’s best players so far this season and all worries about his ability to be a safe pair of hands in the Arsenal goal seem to be fading off in the distance. He is still very young and will no doubt make mistakes in the future, but he has shown that he is exceptionally talented, and has arguably had a better start to the season than United’s own young goalkeeper, the £19m signing David de Gea.

Now that Arsenal have successfully cleared the first hurdle of the week with their despatching of Udinese and then being handed something of a favourable draw for the Champions League group stages, Wenger will hope that Arsenal’s luck can continue and they can come away from Old Trafford with at least a point. However, he faces something of a headache as he goes to select his team for the game, with Gervinho, Alex Song and Emmanuel Frimpong all suspended and Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby definitely out. It leaves only Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky as recognised first-team midfielders, so unless Wenger can bring in a midfielder by Sunday he will either have to play one of the less experienced players, such as Henri Lansbury, or change his preferred 4-4-3 formation to perhaps a 4-4-2.

Playing a 4-4-2 might allow for Theo Walcott to have more of a central role up front with Robin van Persie and perhaps it could give United something else to think about in the run up to the game. Walcott absolutely has the ability to be a top-class forward and his goal against the Italians had more than a shade of Thierry Henry, his former mentor, about it. He still has a long way to go and the first chance he missed against Udinese shows his finishing needs work, but allowing Walcott to play off the shoulders of the United defence could well be the key to getting something out of the game on Sunday.

Manchester United have strengthened their squad considerably over the summer so Arsenal will have to be at their best, but they showed flashes of their passing brilliance in their last game, and perhaps the confidence gained from their midweek win can carry on over to Old Trafford and Arsenal’s season will get a whole lot rosier.

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